(Zero hedge) – Millions of Americans believe that Russian agents tried to infiltrate the voting systems of individual states – even though the Department of Homeland Security clarified that it was unable to verify who or what organized the attacks.
Despite this, UK intelligence agencies are warning the National Grid (a major utility company), the National Health Service, the Sellafield nuclear power plant and Whitehall Departments to brace for a potentially crippling cyberattack organized by Russia that could trigger a widespread blackout, following its decision to blame Russia for the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy, per the Sunday Times (an attack that’s increasingly looking like a false flag).
Spy chiefs have warned the bosses of Britain’s key power companies to boost their security amid fears of a Russian cyber-attack that could put the lights out.
The National Grid was put on alert last week by officials from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a branch of the signals intelligence agency GCHQ – and given advice on how to improve its defences to prevent power cuts.
NCSC officials, working with the National Crime Agency and MI5’s Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, have told key organisations that they could face attempts to steal the data of taxpayers and patients or “denial of service” attacks that could shut down their websites.
A Whitehall security source said: “They’re contacting all the critical national infrastructure operators. They’ve been in touch with National Grid with guidance.”
Paul Chichester, the NCSC director of operations, said: “It is absolutely right that we give advice to sectors on defending themselves from cyber-attacks.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May revealed that former Russian spy, Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia, were poisoned with “a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia” known as ‘Novichok’.
The chemical agent, which was identified by the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, has been used by May to suggest that Russia’s culpability in the attack “is highly likely.”
On these grounds, she claimed that only two scenarios are possible:
“Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”
And while the British government’s line has been uncritically parroted by the global press with little scrutiny of its plausibility, evidence has emerged that points to a larger pool of possible culprits than just Russia.
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Meanwhile, Russia has already expelled 23 British diplomats – the same number as the UK kicked out a few days earlier – while also ordering the closure of the UK consulate in St. Petersburg and the Moscow British Council, a cultural and educational organization.
The warnings about a Russian cyberattack come just days after the US Treasury followed through with sanctions against two Russian intelligence agencies as well as a Russian troll farm and an associated Russian oligarch that were indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
And they also precede what’s expected to be a flurry of actions to be authorized by May this week to crack down on Russia’s ties with the UK.
May will chair a meeting of the national security council on Tuesday to decide how to respond. Downing Street has drawn up plans to:
- Pass emergency legislation to make it easier to seize the assets of people who live in Russia but launder their money though London.
- Strengthen the visa regime to make it harder for Vladimir Putin’s cronies to travel to London.
- Close a Russian trade outpost in Highgate, north London, which is viewed as a hotbed of espionage.
- Target the finances of Russian oligarchs living in the UK.
- Publish a further list of Russian officials to be expelled.
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UK officials are set to keep beating the anti-Russia drum this week, with Foreign Minister Boris Johnson set to meet with NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg. Already this weekend, Ruth Davidson, the Tory leader in Scotland, suggested that the Kremlin-backed television channel RT should be shut down.
“Russia Today exists for the sole purpose of promoting the agenda of Putin’s regime,” she said. “Objectivity is poisoned when state agents pump propaganda into the households of this country.”
Britain will not name the 23 Russian spies it has ordered to leave. But intelligence chiefs are worried Moscow will publish the names of the alleged spies that it has decided to expel – which would render them useless for espionage in other foreign locales.
Of course, it’d be incredibly foolish for Russia to authorize a massive cyberattack in the UK right now while it’s facing so much scrutiny. But that likely wouldn’t stop the UK from reacting by blaming Russia if an attack should happen, regardless of the credibility of any evidence gathered.